IG: DHS makes progress on managing acquisition

After five years in operation, the Homeland Security Department hasn't achieved many of the milestones needed for conducting effective acquisitions, according to a report from DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner released today.

Skinner, in his annual update on major management challenges at DHS, rated progress on acquisition management as “modest.” The department obligated contracts for about $12 billion in fiscal 2007, which was about 40 percent of its budget.

“While some improvements have been made, many of the critical success factors have not yet been achieved,” Skinner wrote.

The report follows a Government Accountability Office report that criticized DHS' management and oversight of major programs. Both reports were completed in November, but the IG released its report publicly just today.

DHS did better in other areas, scoring “moderate” improvement in information technology management and in catastrophic disaster response and recovery. It also scored modestly in financial management.

Skinner identified five other major management challenges but did not provide detailed score cards on those areas.

Regarding acquisition management, the department showed modest progress in the key areas of organizational alignment and leadership; policies and processes; acquisition workforce; and knowledge management and IT.

“The department continues to face challenges associated with implementing an acquisition function that is not fully integrated,” the report said. The structure of DHS' acquisition function creates ambiguity about who is accountable for purchasing decisions, and the chief procurement officer faces difficulties in making corrections because they are viewed as only recommendations by the component heads, the report said.

DHS’ acquisition also is hampered by staffing shortages, the IG noted. As of April 2008 the unit had 61 percent of the minimum required staff and 38 percent of the contract specialists on board.

Although the Coast Guard has integrated three separate IT systems into a single system for acquisition, construction and improvement data, the department as an single entity needs to make more improvements in deploying in information systems to track and analyze acquisition data and improve user efficiency, the IG  wrote.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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